Want to remake Dead Space, EA? That’s great! It’s a beloved horror franchise and honestly, we were all worried that you might have forgotten about it. But can we trust you to bring back the magic of the original, because some of us are still not over the release of Dead Space 3? To make things easier for developer Motive Studios, we’ve compiled a list of five things the Dead Space remake needs to nail down to be successful.
Think horror first
Dead Space has an extraordinary sci-fi world, and the original game was packed with action, puzzles, and incredible moments. Yet horror is the most essential aspect of Dead Space’s identity. The original Dead Space nailed the isolating atmosphere of movies like Alien and Event horizon. Whether we were dodging the writhing tentacles of a necromorphic baby, stopping to listen to the streams of a huge abandoned spaceship, or running through a panicked engine room as alarms drowned out the sound of approaching enemies, the original Dead Space played our hearts like a violin. You probably can’t repeat all those tricks and expect the same results, but we’d love for you to give Motive a try.
Watch the combat of Dead Space 2
The original Dead Space is easily the scariest game in the series. Sadly, it could also be the weakest mechanically. Dead Space 2 was still a solid horror game, but its biggest contribution to the franchise was elevating the action. Isaac’s movements became more fluid, his telekinesis was more responsive, and his refined weapon play made running through waves of enemies incredibly satisfying. These are all obvious improvements, and we could have them for the remake as well. Sure, it’s a little easier to scare players when they’re also fighting with the controls, but it’s not worth the frustration.
Clean up the narrative
The Dead Space narrative is a bit complicated. The series began with a giant mining ship and the accidental discovery of an alien “marker” that slowly drove its crew mad, eventually turning them into lanky zombies. That’s a solid premise, but the plot got more complicated as time went on and we learned more about bookmark copies and ancient religious organizations. Those things are great background details, but the construction of the world was too opaque for most players. The remake offers a great opportunity to reestablish the narrative. The concept of a mystery marker that transforms people into monsters is still great, but it simplifies the rest. Complete enough of the backdrop to make the world feel alive, but leave some mystery for us to keep guessing … and scare.
Give Isaac a voice … again
The original Dead Space focused on Isaac’s journey to find his girlfriend who was stationed at USG Ishimura before it was overrun by necromorphs. Isaac seems to slowly go insane throughout this journey, but it was difficult to get into Isaac’s head because he never opened his mouth. If Motive Studios want to tell a compelling story, they need a compelling protagonist who traverses a hero’s journey. And the best way to help us empathize with Isaac and see his emotional growth is to see him speak and interact with others. And, if you’re talking to yourself at the end of this journey, we know you’re really missing it. Fortunately, Motive recently said that they are planning to give Isaac a voice this time around, but don’t just give Troy Baker a few lines. If you’re going to give him a voice, make sure you think about what this means to the character and that what he says is meaningful.
Don’t spoil everything with new mechanics
I was initially going to criticize EA’s push to add multiplayer to Dead Space 3, but Motive Studio isn’t doing a Dead Space 3 remake, so maybe that’s not an issue here. However, Motive Studio should be tempted to add new systems or mechanics to improve the initial design. The studio has already said that Capcom’s approach to the Resident Evil 2 remake inspires them. RE 2 is a great model for remakes in need of an overhaul, and I hope Motive can take the concepts and themes from the original Dead Space and turn them into something more modern. I also hope that the studio can bring some surprises for the fans. Don’t overdo it with role-playing game systems, branching narratives, or a Z-Ball training franchise mode, though. A little goes a long way with newer systems, and they might dominate the brilliance of what made the original special. Actually, maybe we’re on to something with that Z-Ball thing.
Those are the significant changes we want to see in the Dead Space remake, but while I have you, Motive, can you also give us an option to turn off the strobes, make zero gravity more exciting, and make sure the animation of the stomp remain? satisfactory? Oh and go ahead, just rip off RE2’s map system. Good luck finishing the game; we can’t wait to play it.